Title-winning Wollongong United coach Oli Vrtkovski has taken a significant stride to coaching in the NSW National Premier League, by taking on a key role at Sydney United.
Wollongong United announced Vrtkovski's departure on Monday, ending a 30-year love affair with the club which included claiming the champions' trophy with a 1-nil win over Woonona last year.
With the Illawarra Premier League halted by the state's COVID restrictions, Vrtkovski will now take on an under 18s and 20s coaching role at the Sydney powerhouse next year, hoping to establish himself as a future NPL coach.
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"It's a great opportunity to get the foot in the door at a powerful massive club like Sydney United," he said.
"And it was a timely changing of the guard for Wollongong United as well.
"I've been in Sydney for a little while now, so it feels like the right thing to do.
"It's a big step to go from being an IPL coach to the NPL, but I've spent my coaching career with a focus on bringing young players through into the top grade.
"With the plans to bring in a second division to the A-League, it will also create new opportunities at this NPL level, so it's a great time to be coaching in the competition."
Sydney United, a club which has produced playing and coaching talent the likes of Tony Popovic, Mark Rudan, Ante Milicic, Zeljko Kalac and David Zdrilicm was second on the NSW NPL this season behind Blacktown when the competition was shut down.
"They've developed so much talent and I can't wait to be part of it," he said.
"They've been one of the most powerful clubs in the country over the years."
Sydney United also have a fierce recent top-grade rivalry with the Wollongong Wolves.
It includes a dramatic 2-1 semi-final victory to Sydney United in 2019, knocking out the Wolves who otherwise claimed the league and Australian NPL crowns.
In a statement announcing Vrtkovski's departure, Wollongong United offered glowing praise for the successful legacy he leaves at the club.
"Oli is no stranger to the club, having devoted over 30 years to the club, from ball boy, to 1st grade player, secretary, 4 years coach of youth grade & 7 years as 1st grade coach. Oli has also been awarded Life Membership of the club for his life long commitment and dedication," a club Facebook post read.
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"I'm really proud when I look back at the achievements we've made," Vrtkovski said.
"The amount of silverware was unprecedented at our club.
"They're my childhood club and it will always run through my veins."
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